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Orchestra Hall, October 10, 2013 (Todd Rosenberg photo)

Orchestra Hall, October 10, 2013 (Todd Rosenberg photo)

To celebrate Giuseppe Verdi’s 200th birthday on October 10, 2013, Riccardo Muti led the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus (prepared by Duain Wolfe)—along with soloists Tatiana Serjan, Daniela Barcellona, Mario Zeffiri, and Ildar Abdrazakov—in Verdi’s Requiem at Orchestra Hall. The concert capped off a celebration that was comprised of several performances of Verdi’s music, including concert performances of his opera Macbeth.

The video of the Requiem was projected into Millennium Park’s Pritzker Pavilion and Benito Juarez Community Academy in Chicago, as well as streamed live across the Internet via numerous collaborating websites and the Orchestra’s Facebook page.

“All great performances of the Verdi Requiem carry a sense of occasion, and Thursday’s carried a sense of truly momentous occasion,” praised John von Rhein in the Chicago Tribune. “Muti understands the importance of respecting Verdi’s markings in regard to tempo, dynamics, and expression, and he also knows the importance of breathing with the singers and instrumentalists. His wholehearted dedication carried over to every musician under his command.” In The New York Times, Vivien Schweitzer added, “Alluring dynamic contrasts and shadings rendered the performance exciting and moving by turns, with impeccable playing from the Orchestra and exemplary singing by the Chicago Symphony Chorus.”

Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park, October 10, 2013 (Todd Rosenberg photo)

Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park, October 10, 2013 (Todd Rosenberg photo)

More than 3,000 people viewed the concert in Millennium Park, reported Mark Caro in the Chicago Tribune. According to one patron, “You get to see the city in the evening, you’re near the lake, the music is beautiful, and we love Muti and think he’s done a beautiful job with the CSO.”

The following year, to open the 124th season on September 18, 2014, Riccardo Muti led the Orchestra, Chorus, and soloists Camilla Nylund, Ekaterina Gubanova, Matthew Polenzani, and Eric Owens in Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony at Orchestra Hall. Also video recorded, the performance was made available for free streaming on the Orchestra’s website.

This article also appears here. Videos of Verdi’s Requiem and Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony are available here and here.

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Riccardo Muti leads the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at Morton East High School in Cicero on September 18, 2013

Riccardo Muti leads the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at Morton East High School in Cicero on September 18, 2013 (Todd Rosenberg photo)

On September 18, 2013, Riccardo Muti led the Orchestra in a free community concert at Morton East High School in Cicero. Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association president Deborah F. Rutter welcomed the capacity crowd (with Spanish translation provided by CSO horn Oto Carrillo). Following the performance, Muti thanked the 2,400 people in attendance, adding that music is “among the few things that can bring people together.”

With the Orchestra, Muti conducted Brahms’s Second
Symphony; selections from Verdi’s La forza del destino with soprano Barbara Frittoli, bass Luca Dall’Amico, and men of the Chicago Symphony Chorus; and selections from Verdi’s Nabucco: the overture and “Va, pensiero” featuring community choruses City Voices, Kol Zimrah, North Shore Choral society, and the Wicker Park Choral Singers, along with men of the Chicago Symphony Chorus.

Riccardo Muti and Chicago Symphony Chorus mezzo-soprano Elizabeth Gray at the Illinois Youth Center in Warrenville on September 27, 2010

Riccardo Muti and Chicago Symphony Chorus mezzo-soprano Elizabeth Gray at the Illinois Youth Center in Warrenville on September 27, 2010 (Todd Rosenberg photo)

In addition to free performances at the Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park, Muti also led a community concert on September 22, 2011, at the Apostolic Church of God in Chicago’s Woodlawn neighborhood, conducting the Orchestra in Verdi’s Overture to Giovanna d’Arco, Ibert’s Flute Concerto with principal flute Mathieu Dufour, and Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony. With musicians from the Orchestra, Chorus, and guest artists, Muti also has brought music to the residents of the Illinois Youth Centers in Warrenville and Chicago and the Cook County Juvenile Detention Center.

This article also appears here.

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September 19, 2010 (Todd Rosenberg photo)

September 19, 2010 (Todd Rosenberg photo)

On September 19, 2010, Riccardo Muti officially began his tenure as the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s tenth music director, leading a free concert in Millennium Park’s Pritzker Pavilion. Before a crowd of more than 25,000 people, he led the Orchestra in The Star-Spangled Banner, Verdi’s Overture to La forza del destino, Liszt’s Les préludes, Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet, and Respighi’s Pines of Rome. Mayor Richard M. Daley had declared that day as “Riccardo Muti Day in Chicago,” and a Chicago City Council resolution launched “Festa Muti,” a monthlong festival celebrating his first residency as music director.

“It was Muti’s desire to make his first appearance as the CSO’s tenth music director by offering what he has termed ‘a gift to the people of a great city.’ He delivered and then some,” wrote Andrew Patner in the Chicago Sun-Times. “And the Orchestra itself played its collective heart as well as its legendary technical command to its outer limits. While arguments over who might be the best living conductor are not even worthwhile for a parlor game, Muti might indeed be the best conductor active today in repertoire that no longer figures in the programs of a number of other leading conductors. And a man who takes every piece seriously, who reminds his musicians that they must take every piece and every measure seriously, has much to share with his audiences.”

“What looked on paper to be a fairly routine program of standard romantic repertory was anything but routine in the execution. Muti was in superb form, and the Orchestra played its collective heart out for him,” reported John von Rhein in the Chicago Tribune. “When, for example, was the last time you heard Verdi’s La forza del destino Overture played with such tingling electricity, such full-blooded drama? Muti has long been celebrated as today’s preeminent Verdi conductor, and this reading told you why.”

September 21, 2012 (Todd Rosenberg photo)

September 21, 2012 (Todd Rosenberg photo)

“The new music director appeared moved, even humbled, by the turnout and the ovations,” according to Patner. And at the end of the concert, Muti briefly addressed the crowd: “ ‘We will try to reach many, many people in Chicago,’ he continued. ‘But please stay very close to your great orchestra.’ He’s serious about this. The players and Chicagoans seem to be, too.”

Muti and the Orchestra returned to Millennium Park on September 21, 2012, to perform Orff’s Carmina Burana with soloists Rosa Feola, Antonio Giovannini, and Audun Iversen, along with the Chicago Symphony Chorus and the Chicago Children’s Choir; and again on September 19, 2014, for an all-Tchaikovsky program featuring The Tempest, a suite from The Sleeping Beauty, and the Fourth Symphony.

This article also appears here.

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01-004 029 Union Stock Yards_1925-26

On November 16, 1925, Frederick Stock and the Orchestra inaugurated a series of Popular Concerts at Chicago’s Union Stock Yards. “The International Amphitheatre, as many thousands of persons know, is customarily devoted to horse shows, stock shows, contests, exhibitions generally,” wrote Edward Moore in the Chicago Tribune. “Last night its scheme was considerably altered. A stage surmounted by a heavy awning had been erected at the east end for the Orchestra and the arena filled with chairs for the audience. Instead of four-footed animals seeking prizes, it was inhabited by two-footed humans seeking—and finding—good music.”

“Buyers and breeders of butcher’s meat will throng next week to the great amphitheater at 43rd and Halsted streets, as the International Live Stock Exposition gets under way,” reported the Chicago Daily News. “But last night people came with a different hunger and listened to something far removed from the lowing and bleating of beasts. . . . [Following the concert, Stock said] ‘Oh, it is too bad we waited so long to try this. We will have many, many more people here next time, don’t worry; and I am looking forward to these concerts as a most extraordinary feature of the season. I think this is a service all orchestras should undoubtedly perform. I am going to enjoy the concerts tremendously.’ ”

Throughout its history, the Orchestra has presented affordable as well as free concerts in a variety of Chicago community locations. During the summer of 1934 at the Swift Bridge of Service (which linked the mainland with Northerly Island at 23rd Street), 125 concerts were given as part of the Century of Progress International Exposition. Symphony in the Streets concerts were given in 1971 in several outdoor locations in Chicago neighborhoods. In the summer of 1935, the Orchestra performed many concerts during the first season of the festival in Grant Park and it has returned on numerous occasions, including concerts celebrating new music directors: Daniel Barenboim at the Petrillo Music Shell on September 21, 1991, and Riccardo Muti at the Pritzker Pavilion on September 19, 2010.

This article also appears here.

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